Friday, June 28, 2013

What response should be our norm?

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison... (Acts 12:1-5a, ESV)

I am never surprised by ungodliness; neither in secular or religious sectors, nor in government or private life. Here, in the US of A, we tend to think we are owed an ease of life that probably isn't a fair expectation. Our government is not a theocracy. Yes, there are many in our government who are part of the church organization, but very few that are alive within the church organism.

Don't be surprised when they are ungodly, and pass immoral legislation. Of course, it's great when they do, but we should not be at all surprised when immorality is the norm. 

I think a regular reading of the book of Acts, and a little study of the old days will tell us that Christianity has met many challenges. I don't think "challenge" is even the right word. Persecution. Suffering. Martyrdom. 

Those are the right words. 

Take a fresh gander at the Scriptures this blogpost opened with:

  • The government laid "violent hands" on Christians. 
  • James was "killed...with the sword..."
  • It "pleased the Jews"
  • So, they "proceeded to arrest Peter also." 
  • They "put him in prison"
This environment; this government does not sound at all like they cared about Christians. 

I'm telling y'all... we have to get our perspective corrected! It's a blessing we have so much peace and freedom and ease, but I don't think we should assume we deserve it.

Did God  not love James and Peter? Had they done wrong?
You know the answers to these questions!

What trips me out a little bit is how it tells us very little about James' death? How did his family feel about it? What did the apostles say? Did it further impact the lack of freedom the church in Jerusalem was experiencing? 

The Bible simply tells us James was killed. 
And, Peter was put in jail. 

How did the church respond? 

...but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5b)

I don't know about you, but that's convicting, because I usually respond to troubling news with fret or complaint. I want to respond to troubling times with "earnest prayer." 

And, what happened next? The extraordinary!
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:7-11, ESV)

Now, of a truth, I don't expect an angel to deliver me or you or the church from every trouble, but I do know this: prayer is wise and right in every situation. It is seeking God's power in all things for all reasons to discover His solutions for all issues.

One thing of note, the church in Jerusalem was all about walking with God. They were all about preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that's what got them in trouble. That's not something that could be said of the church in Person County, where I live. Think about it, someone can throw a ball on a field and hundreds of people will come out and chase it around in a church-league softball game, but do we ever see the same response when a problem is "thrown" onto the "field" of life? Rarely. 

Keepin' it real here friends... rarely. 

And, I'm not only talking to you ... I'm culpable here, too. Oh my... 

Conviction stinks, but thank God for it. 

All I'm sayin' is this: responding to whatever is going on is natural, but we need a new natural. We need to first, and earnestly, respond to the issues of life and culture by humbly falling before Him who has the power to do something about stuff. We need to pray. 

Further, we need to lead our congregations to pray, too. Really! It's one thing to lament that there's no common reaction of prayer, but what am I going to do about it?

Right! I will pray.
Yes, I will exhort, encourage -- maybe even inflame -- fellow believers to pray as well. 

Further, I want our churches to get about the business of sharing the Gospel. Yes, that will get us in some hot water, if we really get serious. Yes, I want our churches to get about the business of living the Gospel. Yes, that will make us make serious changes in our own lives, but, frankly, that's what we're all called to.

It will change: 
  • Our speech
  • Habits
  • Hobbies
  • Spending
  • Giving
  • Behavior
  • the very nature of how we live in every single way...
But, it will also cause us to start living like we were called to live!

Now, I feel like I better pray...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Something for the local church I walk with

I do often feel the weight of speaking into things that may be troubling the flock I've been called to undershepherd, such as yesterday's Supreme Court rulings affecting traditional marriage. So, let me do that...

Realize this: I'm not trying to write a sermon here. I'm simply attempting to give some extremely practical advice on thinking through these socially confusing things, and having our hearts set at peace by the Lord, our minds on things above and our responses to be loving and just, biblical and helpful.

  1. This is not necessarily a Christian nation, but we've long (generally speaking) held to a Judeo-Christian ethics, and our laws were shaped by that. That's changing. But, God is not changing. The Church suffers in many nations where God is not regarded at ALL. We are blessed to worship in peace, and we have the responsibility to live our faith as the Body of Christ. What the government does to make that easy is good, but we cannot have the expectation for governments of men to always consider the will of God. In other words, have the right expectation.
  2. Remember, God is sovereign.  
  3. If this upsets you on a political level, don't make it about the faith -- what I mean to say is don't make it seem like America is Israel. We're not. But, do write to you representatives. 
    • Write well worded letters, being gentle in your presentation (as such befits any lady or gentlemen), erudite in your affirmation or complaint, and clear / brief in your presentation. 
    • All of this validates you as a clear thinking citizen AND treats people rightly AND insures it will be read. 
  4. What typically happens in a nation to strike down "Christian" rights also typically rouses the church into needed reflection, action and renewal. In other words, be thankful God is pushing us out of our laziness and apathy. 
  5. Do your homework. 
    • Get in the Scriptures! What do YOU believe? Are YOU agreeing God or simply getting caught on the wave of one social response or the other? 
    • Read articles and think through them (such as the one linked below), but always let God have the biggest and most final word... and let that word sift into YOUR OWN HEART before trying to drill it into someone else's. 
    • Family, listen... too often we are afraid of thinking things through, or afraid of finding out what God might say about something (because WE might need to change) or afraid we'll say the wrong thing or afraid of nearly everything under the sun, with the exception of God, which is who we ought to have some reverent fear of, right? Think through things with Him! Do your homework! Then, as we discover where God stands, stand with Him, and do not waver. 
  6. On the particular subject of homosexuality, remember this: 
    • YOU are a sinner, too, even if this is not your particular sin. Remember this, as well: SEXUAL sin needs to be the topic on table; all sexual sin. 
    • We should be talking about how God's heart is for sinners, but against sin, and we should be careful to say He hates our sin too. 
    • Something that would be refreshing is to look at your own heart and see what things legislation rarely affects, such as greed, gossip, lust, anger, etc., etc. 
  7. Because we are people who communicate constantly, be careful how you communicate. 
    • One thing, in particular, I'll caution us all to realize is this: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. It's what God says that's important. BUT... GET THIS BUT ... we must lovingly communicate what God says. Some folks like to yell and scream when they present what God's word says: "GOD SAYS __________!!!!!" I think, when we remember we are sinners, we can stay true to the truth AND say, "Thus saith the Lord..." 
    • Secondly, sharing deep and precious truth is difficult to do with cliches and quips. That means social media is not the perfect forum, for all it's filled with is quips and cliches. Those are great for thought-provokers, but not all that good for rebuttal or tense conversations that deal with belief and practice.
    • Be committed to BOTH being understood and understanding others. That means we've got to listen to what people are saying and respond to them, rather than fighting to make our points or "win" the conversation. What if we win the conversation but quench the Spirit in the process? Not good. 
  8. So much more to say... I'll leave off for a bit. Don't let social issues overwhelm you; rather, be indwelled by Him who is greater than he that is in the world. Remain faithful to the Lord; be devoted to your calling as a believer and wait upon the Lord.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A chance to join work around the world

I have three friends -- and more importantly, they are solid disciples of Jesus, thus The Church, and my Family in Christ -- are going to India this November. They are going as part of a 5 person team, equipping pastors to take the Gospel into parts of India where there are no local churches. 

Because their group is small, they've learned the team has to pay for airfare right away, because they cannot get group rates, or contracted tickets (which allow you to pay later on). Tickets are approximately $2000.00 each. That's $10,000.00 their team needs.

They did not expect this "curveball" to be thrown at them, but they are responding with faith, believing the Lord is going to use His people, the Body of Christ, to fulfill this incredible need. 

Our local church is so excited about the opportunity to send believers to this area of the world, our entire offering this coming Sunday will go to support this team. I am humbly asking that each family give; give generously and sacrificially. 

Personally, I am excited about the thought of helping send people who will send people into places where the Gospel is not being proclaimed, and where there are not local lighthouses shining the Light of Christ, and where there is not local churches acting as the Body of Christ. It gets me fired up to think God may use ME to send the Gospel to unreached people!

I actually think of the Apostle John's commendation of believers who support believers: Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a mannerworthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name,accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 1:5-8, ESV)

If you would consider giving, or would love more information, I'd be privileged to assist you in helping these folks out. You can email me at eastrockcc@gmail,com/ 

You Are Important!

Today, we had what I call a "rolling staff meeting" at Youth For Christ. That's when we get in a different location and have a discussion, a prayer meeting, some time alone, a reflection, a teaching, or whatever seems necessary in the moment. Today, we traveled to Duke Chapel, where each staff member was given a reading, told to find a quiet place, slowly pour over the reading and listen for God to speak in the quiet. Maybe, just maybe, you need to hear this today, too. 

You are Important!

A reading (from the paraphrase, The Message): 1 Corinthians 4
1-4 Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment.

5 So don’t get ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dreamed of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will any one of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.

6 All I’m doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so that you will learn restraint and not rush into making judgments without knowing all the facts. It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.

7-8 For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!

9-13 It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.

14-16 I’m not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself.

17 This is why I sent Timothy to you earlier. He is also my dear son, and true to the Master. He will refresh your memory on the instructions I regularly give all the churches on the way of Christ.

18-20 I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don’t think I’ll ever show up in person. But I’ll be there sooner than you think, God willing, and then we’ll see if they’re full of anything but hot air. God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life.

21 So how should I prepare to come to you? As a severe disciplinarian who makes you toe the mark? Or as a good friend and counselor who wants to share heart-to-heart with you? You decide.

A message: Jeremiah 5:1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. (ESV)

You are important.

Do you have moments where you doubt it?

In Jeremiah’s days of prophesying, God challenged him to look all over Israel to see if there was one person who was upright; one person who was righteous. There was none, but God would have saved all of Israel if there was one righteous person.

One righteous person makes the world of difference.

In Christ, you are righteous. There is hope for mankind, because of Jesus, and, in Him, you are important. Through Him, you ought to see how important you are.

Don’t forget it; YOU ARE IMPORTANT.

If for no other reason, you’re important because YOU are made in God’s image: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV)

Don’t you dare forget this: YOU ARE IMPORTANT.

Sure, you know it…you were made in God’s image, and sin ruined it. You know that. But, you are so important to God that He gave His Son for you. Have you forgotten that? You better not! You are important! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18, ESV)

You were DEAD in your trespasses and sins, but God, who is rich in mercy, called you out of the kingdom of darkness and into the dominion of His beloved Son. Get that? Why would He deem you so worthy? I cannot fathom it, either. But, He did.

As the Will Reagan song says, “You see me, And You know me, And You love me, Through and through.” 

None of who we are is a surprise to God, but we are surprised by His love.
You are, aren’t you?
Me, too.

The Apostle John was used of the Spirit to say to us, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, ESV)

Do you know what that means? This: THERE IS MORE TO COME.

In Christ, you have a part in that. You’re included in what is to come.


Can anyone so loved be unimportant?

Really. Think about that… let it soak … let it settle … would God go to such great lengths to provide salvation and call YOU into it if you were not important?

And, think about this, God has placed you in the Body of Christ, that YOU may be gifted and equipped to BE JESUS hands and feet on Earth. Whoa! Do you get that?

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8, ESV)

God doesn’t need you. He wants you.
God can take care of His own affairs. But, He calls you in.
God is able to do everything on His own. But, He involves you.

Your enemy is a liar. He is a thief. He is a destroying locust. He is a murderer.
He wants you to think you are nothing.
On your own, you are.
But, in Christ you are important.
Don’t forget that.

Not for a cotton-picking second!

You are important!
Do you hear me?

Now, remember, that’s all tied up in Christ. Be humble.
Now, remember, that’s all because of Christ. Be thankful.
Now, remember, that’s all through Christ. Be servile.
Now, remember, NOTHING can separate you from the love of God. Be wowed.
In Him, YOU are important. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Putting my intellect into overdrive

I have come to believe the preeminent revelation from God to man in this world is the canonized 66 books of the Holy Bible. I do not look at that book through the lens of culture or media or tradition or the realm of man's thinking. Rather, I look at everything the lens of Scripture.

That being said, I like to think. I like to engage. I like to read and listen to things. I like to stretch my brain.

Sodoku? It will stretch your brain. I like stretching my brain, but I like ideas more than puzzles. I do like puzzles, but ideas more. Thinking through ideas, reading books, listening to music, reading biographies and historical accounts are all good for me. Of course, sodoku is good, and I recommend puzzles to everyone.

I had a long week. Well, everyone has 168 hours in each week. Sure. I know.

What I mean to say is that I spent many more of those hours under duress than I do in the normal week. During those times, it's important to have one's intellect stretched and stretched and stretched. We deal with things out of our capacity to relate to them, which flows from our understanding of how God relates to them. In other words, as we grow in our understanding of the world and in God's view of things, we grow in our capacity to deal with the world without being overwhelmed by it.

Don't get me wrong, I truly believe contentment only comes from the Lord, and I truly believe that to be content where we are is one of God's greatest challenges to mankind, and, upon relying on Him to grant it, and in our receiving Him, His greatest gift. The soul set at peace by God cannot be constrained by any man. Likewise, the mind, ceasing to rage, or the mind, ceasing from besetting confusion, is a great gift of God.

Knowing how to exist...
Knowing how to view the world...
Having a heart, a soul and a mind set at ease are true blessings.

We'd do well to seek the help of the Lord to employ these words from Hebrews:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6, ESV)

See all those commands? Awesome. We should heed them, but right in the middle of doing all these great things, we are told to "be content" with what we have. How can we do all of that? How can we be content? By remembering "The Lord is my helper." That's how.

Stretching our intellect often means thinking through things and seeking the right mind about every situation according to Scripture.

We live in an extremely consumer oriented society, here in the good ol' US of A. Fast food. Media deluge. Cars that zip from one place to the other. Click, click, click go our remotes, pads, smart phones and laptops.
What that does is keep our senses tuned into trivial things; surface things; things that do not require deep thought; things keep us moving along at pretty quick clip.

That's not conducive to deep thinking, you know?

So, this morning, I endeavored to do several things to get my brain cranked up. I listened to an album. I watched a movie. I read two books (well, finished one and read another; both short).

The movie was Lies My Father Told Me. I truly enjoyed the movie. Being a Scripturally minded man, there was much in the movie to make me consider what I knew of Scripture and what I believed about life and the Messiah and Sovereignty and much, much more. Even miracles, and my view of them, were challenged. At one point the little boy, David, asked his grandfather, "Do you believe in
miracles, Zaida?"

To wit, his grandfather says, "No, but I rely on them."

That made me stop and think: Do I really believe in miracles? Do I really rely on them? What is a miracle to God? Wow, He seems to do them the same as a breathe...effortlessly.

At another point, the Orthodox Jewish grandfather uses Jesus as an example, calling Jesus, "a wise Rabbi" and then said, to his friend, "Is he really anything more?"

Wow, that ignited me! While I could have been satisfied that the movie mentioned Jesus, though not even by name, my spirit could not rest in me. Like I said, I was ignited! To accept the wise teachings of Jesus without receiving the deity of Christ dismisses His Person is a mistake of eternal peril!

Folks do it all the time.

I enjoyed the movie, and could write a bit more, were that the point of what I am doing this morning. NOTE: in no way should you count this as my endorsement to YOU seeing this movie. They "bleep" out some language and edited what was clearly nudity, so be careful that you get the "family friendly" version should you choose to watch it. 

I was actually tricked into my next adventure, but I embraced it. I like a band named Disciple. I hadn't listened to them in a while, so I thought I'd enjoy an album. I popped over to Spotify and typed in "Disciple." I was surprised to see Disciple had a new album.

Um, I was wrong.

It was not the Disciple  I know and love, but another group named Disciple, apparently from the psychedelic era of rock music.

Let's see... there is much I could say about the album, but I just don't want to waste my fingers typing it. I did like their cover of Fontella Bass' Rescue Me. I still like Fontella's better, but it was interesting. One song, There Must be an Answer, provoked me to think, There is an answer, but not where you're looking.

Again, folks do it all the time.

Next, I jumped into a little philosophy. I'd been reading The Discourses by Epictetus. I finished that, and picked up Plontius' The Six Enneads. Interesting, to say the least. Without taking up all day, let me say this, knowing a bit of Scripture, it's clear to see those boys were on to some truth, as in, some things they say are clearly revelation from God, for some things agree with Scripture. However, somethings they say are, as the young folks say, wack. 

Again, folks do that all the time.

It's common place to see both biblical and wack matched to the max constantly

We need a renewing mind that weighs everything that comes at us and puts each thing in its proper place and in the righteous perspective.

Think about how much calmer we'd all be if things were in the right perspective...

And, herein likes the lesson for stretching the intellect.
#1 It's just a good exercise.
#2 We need to have the regular habit of thinking through things, digging for the real meaning behind the preparation.
#3 We need to develop the discipline of accepting or rejecting ideas through the light of God's righteousness as revealed in Scripture.

There's where growing our capacity to receive peace comes in. The more we think through the things of life, and stand on the promises of God, and lean into the wisdom of God, the less things cause us to struggle and become mentally and emotionally entangled in frustration or confusion.

So, whatever I do, the Bible is in my hand, and God's word is hidden in my heart, and His truth conversant with my issues. Years ago, I soaked it all in with equal credence. Not anymore; even as I stretch my intellect, God's word is my foundation, my filter, my lens and the Living Word is my Savior. I'm not alone in figuring things out. I'm not powerless. I'm not constantly cast at rage or confusion. I am learning to be content, for "The Lord is my helper..."

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday prayer-rolling

Here I sit at Alton Baptist Church, thinking back on my ride this morning from the neighborhood I live you. This is the neighborhood where I grew up for a few years of my life and I always enjoy coming back here.

I left a little early this morning with the purpose in my heart. I thought I might pray for each church as I passed by along the way. I drove slowly, making Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11 and Numbers 6:24-26 the core of my prayers, adding to those this simple prayer: "Lord, lead those folks to walk in humility before you, and to worship you from a free and true heart, and to love one another as Jesus loves us."

I had to slow down a couple times, because I really wanted to pray that over each congregation the buildings represent. At one point, I drove behind a elderly woman, driving so slow it could have been called stopping more than going. Usually, my heart struggles to ride behind a driver like this. But, not today. Not even close. I imagined she was praying, too. I followed her for several miles and turns, till she turned into a church's parking lot.

I kept riding; rolling and praying.

A calm; a peace-filled balm began to dominate my heart, and compassion began to well up in me. What began as an exercise of my mind became an exercise of my heart, as I strained to worship God and love the Body of Christ in this tangible, needed act of prayer.

The first church I passed by was New Life Independent Baptist Church. Then I passed by Roxboro Church of Christ and immediately after that Warren's Grove United Methodist Church. On the edge of town, I passed by Westwood Baptist Church and then, a few miles later, Stories Creek Primitive Baptist Church; a couple miles later,  Theresa Baptist Church. Several miles went by and a couple changes of roads, but the next churches I saw where Bailey's Chapel AME and Mt. Pisgah AME churches. In between those two were Hyco River and the Virginia / North Carolina state line. As I turned onto Harmony Road, immediately passed by Harmony United Methodist Church, and then a couple miles down to where I sit as I type this in my car.

I also saw people mowing their grass, getting ready to go to the lake, swimming in their pool, riding horses and doing a host of other things, including playing golf and simply sitting on the porch. I saw a very cool convertible car with two smiling people, happily riding together in the sun; they looked relaxed and happy.

Sometimes, on my way to church, being the Scribed-up Pharisee my-honest-heart hates to confess I can be, I imagine such people are doing so many unnecessary things, and that they ought to be in church. In other words, I judge them. I act as if I know their life schedules -- maybe they already went to an early service; maybe their church meets at 6:00 PM, like the one I'm a part of; maybe this or that ... doesn't matter ... I shouldn't judge -- I act as if I know what they ought to be doing every part of their Sunday.

Something shifted in me... I began to pray the same prayer for folks that caught my attention that I was already praying for local churches.

Maybe this is much better. Yeah, I'm sure it is.

As my friend's song says, "God is working on my heart..."

*Scripture referenced above:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, ESV)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filledwith the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV)
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.(Numbers 6:24-26, ESV)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

For the Young Folks: I dare you to read this to them

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5a, ESV)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:12-16, ESV)

God made you. Yes, we all understand a bit about anatomy and biology, but God used those things to knit you together. You are not junk. You are no one’s accident. You were created by the Creator. Yes, Him, the one who not only hung the stars, but spoke them into being. Yes, Him, the one who gave us light and melody and puppies and roses and oxygen. Yes, Him, who made the world and everything in it, and then placed mankind in the middle of it as the crowning creature in His majestic creation.

Do not, for even a piece of a piece of a piece of a second think you descended from apes or crawled from some primordial soup. Do not think cosmic dust aligned just right, atoms happened to collide and from a wisp you became existent.

No way; not even close. Much like the most unique of fingerprints, God made you by His own hand, and His image rests upon you.

If all the demons bound for hell and all the angels rejoicing in heaven and all the voices able to shout from every part of the Earth tell you in some lying unison that you did not come from God, don’t believe it. God made you.

Nobody knows you like God knows you. He knows the fears you hide, the dreams you have in your sleep and those you have while you’re awake. He knows the strengths in you that you don’t even know in yourself. He knows the sin that you hide from every other soul. He knows your years and your moments, both those that lay behind and those to come. His thoughts toward you are for healing, wholeness, peace and power.

Nobody loves you like God loves you, either. God hates our sin so much, and loves us so much that He gave His Son’s life to pay for our sin and open the way for us to know Him in a personal, intimate way. He would not stand idly by while the creatures He loves were helplessly separated from Him.
He made you for purpose, too.

Don’t you fall for the fat lie that says your purpose in life is to be an academic success, or a cultural maven, or a financial bull, or an intellectual giant. None of those things are your chief purpose. You were created to walk with God. You were created to enjoy God, and for Him to enjoy you. You were created to serve God; to walk with Him in humble fellowship, think His thoughts, care about what He cares about and turn your every facility over to His good use.

Sure, you might become highly educated.
You may become wealthy.
It’s possible you’ll become incredibly esteemed by those around you.
Indeed, your brain could become admired the globe over.

These things might happen, but none of these are your primary purpose. You are a creature of God whom He would delight in making into His very own child. He made you, and He desires every part, portion, particle and piece of your entire existence be surrendered into a life of use and worship unto Him.

Young people, I invite you, as you embark upon summer break, seek Him who made you. Know Him who knows you. Love Him who loves you. Surrender to Him who has a purpose for you.

Go ahead, I dare you, live for God…